Thursday, April 3, 2014

New Corporation, The Guardian, Public Media: trends

Importantly for public policy analysts,news about News Corporation is comprehensively reported in The Guardian. This liberal-left newspaper, now with electronic sites in the UK, the US and Australia and online readership of up to 10 million daily, has an interest in circulating information about public media, even while it is a private company.
It's holdings are complicated. The Guardian was based on a model initiated as the Scott Trust, which until 2008 provided security to the firm. In line with commercial pressures and privatization generally, the 2008 move away from the Trust was market centric. Wikipedia Short version The shift to a Limited arrangement for The Guardian financial structure put the paper more directly into the market space, thereby privileging competition and reducing its philosophical role as a public good. Little or no profit concerns gave way to a lot of profit / performance concerns.  
History determines two trajectories that are part of The Guardian's orientation: 1. As a quality liberal newspaper The Guardian comprehensively reports on the media; 2. The Guardian is in a survivalist competition with News Corporation, which is personalised around the Murdoch Family, mostly the grand per Rupert Murdoch.
Reports on News Corporation's behavior in Australia have been consistently strong, as noted on occasion in this blog.   February 2014, December 2012
A report on April 1, was not an April Fool's joke. It offered a detailed exploration of the conflict that has emerged in Australia between public interest / liberal media and News Corporation. The opportunity to unpack that collision is the kind of reportage that has become a key component of The Guardian's recent traction in Australia and earlier, in its coverage of the News of the World hacking scandal - a News Corporation story par excellence.
The news report, "Mark Scott: News Corp Papers Never More Aggressive Than Now,"  took as its ammunition a presentation by Mark Scott the Managing Director of the Australia Broadcasting Corporation at The Centrer for Advancing Journalism at The University of Melbourne. Scott report
There are excellent critiques of News and their domination of the Australian market. The real story is about monopoly practices and how some media outlets in Australian capital cities are open to control by News newspapers: especially Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart. For access to the advertising pipeline, being the only newspaper in town offers excellent sources of revenue to the newspaper. Monopoly in this sense is great - if you are the monopolist!
Monopoly practices are complicated when the media layer is thrown into the mix. As News has argued in the past, there is not really a monopoly because of the Internet.
Perhaps Kim Williams should now be seen as the "poor boy" who was sent to do his bosses bidding, arguing this line.
He was CEO of News Corporation in Australia until just before the last Australian Federal election, and did himself no good when he shilled this line of argument: "The internet makes all sorts of news available ergo there is no monopoly, there are other news sources everywhere." Running this line in response to the Australian Independent Media Inquiry recommendation for a News Media Council (a kind of Review Board for balanced content and coverage) was irritating at best for those critics who saw monopoly practices at work, and absolutely inexcusable for democrats who wanted traditionalist non-ideological news.
(Some people still believe in objectivity in news coverage...As a student of journalism at The University of Queensland in the late 1970s, we were already talking about the problem with that approach.)
What should media analysts make of Mark Scott's comments?
A. As a conservative, his comments indicate concern about News Corporation's business practices from inside the business community.
B. The report indicates that a line has been crossed, where criticism of liberal and public media in Australia is now part of the News Corporation approach.
C. Models of media management are rapidly changing under the combined weight of News Corp's aggressive  push to maximise its market reach. (See Scott's comments on Fox in the US and market segmentation, as a business case).
D. Ideological forces and self interest are becoming more conspicuous thanks to Murdoch.
E. The Internet continues to remake news media.
F. Looking at News Corporation's news coverage, it magnifies its audience interests to the detriment of other opinions, by directing the audience from Fox TV to News Corporation newspapers to its own Internet sites. In Uprising I referred to this as "ideological grooming."
G. Australia offers special conditions in its political economy. The News Corp. Wall Street Journal is a different newspaper to Murdoch-owned media outfits in Australia and the UK...
Conclusion
The Guardian is an important source of information and analysis about News Corporation. It's view is helpful for researchers seeking to understand the new media ecosystem.
Media studies gets more exciting with the Internet.